March 11, 2016

Fitness gets corporate push with 10,000 steps for busy employees – TOI

Preeti Bhatnagar noticed the buzz in her employer Ferrero India’s office over a new fitness programme. She enrolled the moment she learned it did not require any extra time.

Bhatnagar was delighted when she learned that all she had to do was walk carrying a pedometer at all times. She and other colleagues were given a target of completing 10,000 steps a day in teams of five. As the participants entered their step count in the online system, it was converted into distance and competing teams were shown to race around a ‘virtual world’ – popularly known as the 100-day race.

“The programme made me make small changes consciously and sub-consciously in my daily lifestyle, some good practices like taking the stairs instead of the lift have stayed,” she said.

The regime is called Stepathlon and the participants, Stepathletes. Corporates are enrolling with the Stepathlon programme for long-term health of their busy employees who are unable to spare extra time for exercising or lack the motivation. Many others are looking at this trend as effective and an engaging team-building activity.

Shyam Mani, managing director and CEO of Tata Motors Finance, said, “I’ve noticed this programme builds synergy, engagement and team bonding. It has also built consciousness among our employees towards physical exercise and better health.”

Founder of Stepathlon, Ravi Krishnan, realized that in the age of urbanization, when our movements are minimal, a no-fuss fitness solution which could be easily adopted was needed.

“When Shane Bilsborough, international nutrition and fitness expert, and now my partner, introduced me to the concept popular in Australia, I knew the timing and relevance was perfect for the Indian market,” he said.

“We believe all movement is good movement, and the model helps mitigate time, space and money constraints and can be adopted by anyone, anywhere, anytime. This benefits both employees and the healthy employees benefit their companies,” added Krishnan.

The programme’s popularity lies in the concept of helping professionals reach their health goals by creating positive competition and converting a daily activity into exercise without them having to invest in extra time.

Healthspring that believes in being a family health expert, has developed a programme for corporate employees called as the ‘step-by-step challenge’, a part of their annual wellness programme which includes health scores, medicine and diet consultation and doctor appointments for every individual.

“Employees must be heart-healthy and look after their health needs,” says Kaushik Sen, CEO and cofounder of Healthspring.

While research done by the American Heart Association shows that all it takes is 10,000 steps of walking every day for us to be fit, the big question is how do we keep people motivated, said Anurag Malhotra, CEO of Fitgen, which gives corporates a device called Fitgen Trek and an app along with a 10,000 steps fitness challenge.

Fitgen’s Trek device shows the wearer updated information on health parameters such as BMI, weight, sends in regular feedback and tips based on the level of activity and progress of the wearer.

The wearer or the participant does not have to monitor or key in the day’s activity or number of steps, the gadget connected to the app does that automatically while connecting him to his friends showing their progress.

“There are leader boards and community-based challenges, which motivate an employee to exceed their limits. Often, corporate employees are in such jobs, they are sitting all day and do not realize how little their physical activity is,” said Malhotra.

ZS Associates which has a young workforce realized that a competitive approach would be effective towards ensuring participation of employees in various fitness activities. The new programme attracted a huge response in their Pune office and the company plans to replicate it in their office in Gurgaon.

“Our work culture is intense, but we wanted to communicate to our employees that fitness is important for long-term career and personal well-being and growth,” said Chaitrali Singh, director of human resources India, at ZS.

Under their Fitness for Impact programme, every participant’s baseline fitness parameters, such as stamina, flexibility, weight, endurance, are recorded at the start of the three-month programme. Candidates get regular tips on fitness by professional trainers and can take part in a Friday weekly fun-fitness programme such as Zumba.

A certificate, mention in the yearly coffee-table book and an award in the form of vouchers for fitness gadgets was awarded to the employee who showed the maximum improvement for each of the parameter.
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